Police charge 83-year-old pro-life priest who was praying too close to Canadian abortion mill
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OTTAWA, Ontario, October 25, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Police slapped an 83-year-old Roman Catholic priest with a summons to appear in court Wednesday at about noon for allegedly intimidating or attempting to intimidate abortion clients at The Morgentaler Clinic in downtown Ottawa.
Father Tony Van Hee is facing the charge under Ontario's new "bubble zone" law, the Safe Access to Abortion Services Act (Bill 163).
Under that law, a first-time offense can carry a fine of up to $5,000 and six months in jail.
"I will fight it on my own and if they fine me, I will not pay it and go to jail," Fr. Van Hee told LifeSiteNews. "If they jail me, I will fast."
He is asking all pro-lifers to pray for him.
But the staunch pro-lifer, who has been protesting abortion for 28 years on Parliament Hill through prayer, fasting, and silent witness, is not surprised by the arrest.
"I expected it," he said.
Last weekend, the priest took some signs and a seat and set himself up on what he believed was federal Crown land across from the abortion mill, thinking he could not be arrested under a provincial law while on federal Crown land. Security guards told him to leave.
So, he instead took his signs and protested on the public sidewalk across the street from the abortion clinic at 65 Bank Street.
His signs, though, had nothing to do with abortion. They were about free speech. One of them, which the priest held in front of him, read: "The Primacy Of Free Speech: Cornerstone Of Western Civilization." The other, which was on his back, read: "Without Free Speech The State Is A Corpse."
Donald Andre Bruneau, a pro-life activist who has protested abortion with Fr. Van Hee for years, told LifeSiteNews he witnessed police officers arriving, talking to Fr. Van Hee, taking his signs, and issuing the summons to appear before the court on November 16. Bruneau captured the incident on video.
On his Twitter feed, Bruneau claims the priest was wrongly charged. He has photos of the cleric sitting on a bicycle seat on a poll, carrying his signs, and not even looking at the abortion clinic across the street.
NO #FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN CANADA!— Donald Andre Bruneau (@isthewholetruth) October 24, 2018
Fr. Antony Van Hee, S.J. wrongly charged under Safe Zone Law (#re abortion) while wearing signs about FREE SPEECH.@LifeSite @lianne_laurence #BC #MANITOBA #SASKATCHEWAN #ALBERTA #ONTARIO #QUEBEC #NEWBRUNSWICK #Canada #USA pic.twitter.com/FrUKxehvSM
"He was within the bubble zone but he had nothing on him that was advocating against abortion," said Bruneau.
Both the priest and Bruneau maintain the police also made a technical mistake on the summons to appear in court.
"They have 11:13 a.m. (on the ticket) and it was about 12:20 p.m. when they first came to me," said Fr. Van Hee. "The time is wrong by about one hour and seven minutes."
Ontario's "bubble zone" law was passed almost exactly a year ago, making pro-life expression outside abortion facilities illegal even though there was virtually no evidence to back up any claims of violence by pro-lifers at these abortuaries.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson asked for the law, also called Bill 163, at the behest of the abortion facility’s staff. They alleged pro-lifers were harassing and intimidating women as they approached the abortion clinic.
But a pro-life blogger, Patricia Maloney, filed a freedom of information request for a record of Ottawa police attendance at the Morgentaler abortion center from January 2014 to June 2017 and discovered the abortion clinic's claims of alleged pro-life violence were unfounded.
“There were a total of 64 police reports for this period, most of which [...] were false alarms, cancelled calls, administrative issues, and other minor issues,” Maloney wrote on her blog last year.
“In this three-year, five-month period, there were exactly two level 1 assaults (minor injury or no injury). It is unknown if the assaults were perpetrated against pro-life or against pro-choice people.”
Fr. Van Hee considers the "bubble zone" law to be so unjust as to be worth jail time.
"It's wrong and it has to be challenged and that's why I'm willing to go to court," he said.
He is urging all Canadians to inform themselves as to just how badly freedom of speech has been damaged in their country.
"It's really being eroded and Bill 163 is an egregious example of it," he said.